Safe and stable housing is one of the most important needs when it comes to recovery and well-being. With recovery housing, the chances for success increase significantly.
So, where should your loved one live? That’s a question that many parents and other caregivers think about once their child has completed residential or another level of treatment. You may welcome your child back into your home with open arms. Or perhaps you only remember the struggles that happened before they connected with treatment and aren’t ready to have them home. Still, other people might not be in a position to offer up their homes.
Recovery housing – also known as transitional housing, sober living, halfway houses, ¾ houses, etc., — may be an option. It’s important to do your homework though if you decide to help your child find living arrangements. The quality and costs of housing can vary a great deal across the country.
How can my loved one find recovery housing?
Your child’s treatment team should develop a complete discharge plan which includes housing. They may have suggestions as to places that will meet your child’s needs.
Another resource is the National Alliance for Recovery Residences. Their state chapters offer listings of recovery houses that have met a minimum standard of care.
Gethelp.com offers a search tool for sober living. You can input a city to find places to consider. You will still need to call the houses to see if they have openings and are a good fit for your loved one.
Another option is using the government’s treatment locator. Enter a city under “Find a Treatment Facility Near You”, and hit search. Under “Treatment Type” use the pulldown menu for more options and select transitional housing, halfway house, or sober home.
Asking for leads at recovery centers or support group meetings (e.g., 12-step, SMART Recovery, Families Anonymous) is another way to find places.
If your child is in college, you might consider asking if the college or university they are attending offers recovery housing. Collegiate recovery programs vary from campus to campus. If available they may provide counseling, sober housing, and events geared toward students in recovery.
What should my loved one consider when searching for recovery housing?
Here are some questions to ask when evaluating recovery houses:
- What level of care and services do they offer?
- What is required for a deposit and weekly rent? Are utilities included in the rent? How often are urine screens and breathalyzers used and what are the costs for those?
- Do they use trained peers with lived experience to help with recovery goals?
- Where is the house located and is it in a safe neighborhood? Is transportation for grocery shopping, attending community meetings and/or getting to therapy offered? Or, is it near transportation if needed?
- What is the physical living environment like? How many people are in a bedroom? How many people have to share a bathroom?
- Do they support the use of medications whether to assist substance use treatment and/or for mental health disorders?
- What training has the house manager or other staff had to handle crisis situations or co-occurring disorders?
- Are there written rules and procedures? Under what circumstances could your loved one be asked to leave?
- What do they do in the event of a relapse?
- Do they keep naloxone (e.g., Narcan) in the house?
- Is the house certified or accredited?
- What is the reputation of the house? Consider checking with the Better Business Bureau or ask at support group meetings.
- Are the people living there friendly and supportive?
What is the admissions process?
The admissions process differs from house to house. The best way to find out what’s needed for admission is to call the number listed for the house. Some houses will admit a person directly from detox while others want to see an initial period of abstinence such as two weeks or more after treatment.
Your loved one may be interviewed by the house manager or the people currently living in the home. Some houses conduct background checks as well.
In the case of Oxford House vacancies, appointments for an interview are offered by the residents and they vote on whether or not to admit the person looking for housing.
What does recovery housing cost?
Most recovery residences are self-funded through rent payments by the people who live there. Recovery residences with higher levels of support, including a range of clinical services, may receive other forms of federal, state, and private support.
Some homes are very basic offering a bed and access to a kitchen and bathroom. Others, often costing upwards of $10K per month, offer luxury living with an on-site chef, fitness membership, counselors and more.
There may be an intake fee in addition to weekly or monthly rent. For example, one of the homes in New Jersey charges $1800 as an intake fee and $260 per month in rent. Rents are often lower in other parts of the country.
It’s important to ask what is included such as the cost of random urine testing, towels, bedding, utilities, WIFI, cable TV and administration fees. Food, soap, shampoo, toilet paper, etc., and other living expenses are often the resident’s responsibilities.
Will insurance cover the costs?
In most cases the answer is no, it isn’t covered by insurance. Some outpatient programs (e.g., intensive outpatient and partial hospitalization programs) roll housing into their total fee. They charge insurance for ongoing treatment with housing provided as a bonus. When offered as part of a program, the housing may be co-ed and offered in a motel or garden apartment with varying levels of supervision.
What are the rules of the house?
Recovery house rules vary a great deal, so it’s important to ask the landlord or house manager about the rules before signing an agreement or contract.
- No alcohol or other drug use is allowed in or away from the house. If cigarette smoking or vaping is allowed it may be in a specific area. Your loved one will be randomly tested for substances and if they fail a drug test, will be asked to leave.
- There may be requirements to attend an outpatient counseling program, look for work, volunteer or go to school during the day. In some cases, this means that there is limited or no access to the house during specific hours like 9 am to 5 pm.
- Typically, there are weekly house meetings that your loved one will be required to attend. These meetings are an opportunity to check in with everyone to see how things are going and to address any conflicts or concerns.
- Attending support group meetings (e.g., Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous) regularly is usually required. These meetings are held either in the house or in the community.
- Expect chores (e.g., food prep, vacuuming, cleaning bathrooms, making beds) to be assigned to keep the home clean.
- There may be a curfew or a certain time by which everyone is expected to be home. Exceptions can be made for work or other important reasons.
- No sexual contact with other roommates is permitted. In addition, no overnight guests are allowed.
- It is likely obvious but stealing, gambling, destruction of property and fighting may result in being asked to leave the house in addition to other consequences.
Here is an example of rules offered in an Oxford House to give you an idea of what they include.
What if my child needs medication?
Medication policies vary across recovery houses. Some places do not accept people who are taking specific medications, such as those to treat Opioid Use Disorder (e.g., methadone, buprenorphine/Suboxone) and medications for mental health disorders (e.g., antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications). Others accept people who are being tapered off of specific medications under medical supervision.
Some houses have no prescribed medication restrictions. They accept people who have been prescribed medications to treat substance use disorders or other mental health conditions.
If your child needs to take medications, be sure they have a way to secure them so that no one else takes them. Learn more about medication safety in recovery here.
What happens if my child relapses?
Most houses require random drug screens which may or may not be supervised. Ask what happens if there is a positive test. For the safety of everyone in the house, relapse is usually met with immediate action to help the person get back on track. This may include asking them to leave for a while, connect with counseling, attend a 5-day detox program, etc.
However, this is not always the case. In some houses, a relapse will result in being told to leave immediately with no support and no pro-rating of rent. Others might offer a hotel stay for a day or so to allow the individual time to develop a plan, but they won’t offer any help.
It’s also important for you to know that there are poorly run houses. They will allow substance use because they don’t want to lose the rental income. In other instances, they may be getting kickbacks for a housemate’s attendance at an outpatient counseling program.
How long can a person stay in recovery housing?
Typically, a person can stay as long as they follow the rules of the house and are current in rent payments. The community aspect of sober living and the shared experiences of the residents can be a great support to your loved one.
That said there may be reasons other than a relapse that can result in being asked to leave the residence. Some “deal breakers” are fights, not completing chores, having unauthorized guests, skipping too many support group meetings, etc.
What options are there if my loved one can't afford recovery housing?
There are a few options to consider if your loved one is struggling to find housing. The Salvation Army offers Adult Rehabilitation Centers which include housing. They do not charge for this service, but your loved one will be expected to work in their warehouses.
Often there are community organizations that can provide support for no or low cost. For example, Market Street Mission and Comunidad Unida Para la Rehabilitación de Adictos (CURA, Inc.) offer housing and ongoing treatment in New Jersey.
Social services or state substance use and mental health helplines may also be able to provide guidance and options to consider.